Your Console and Handheld Guide: Nintendo Wii
While Sony and Microsoft fight tooth and nail for the fickle hardcore power-gamer, Nintendo decided to create a brand new videogame audience with their innovative and cutely named Wii console. Nintendo's revolutionary remote controller translates movement to the screen, letting you hit a tennis ball by swinging your arm and shoot by pointing and pressing a button. While relatively expensive, the Wii has a lot going for it. It can play all the GameCube games still on store shelves (warning: you need to buy GameCube controllers for this to work) and its Virtual Console lets you connect your Wii to the Internet to buy classic Nintendo and other classic games, or even a Web browser, and they keep rolling out clever new channels to keep you interested (Wi-Fi is required in your house for it to work, but Nintendo has a USB doohickey that'll let you accomplish this easily enough). Nintendo is often derided as a "kiddie system," and the charge fits -- but Nintendo's idea of a "kiddie game" is one clever enough for everyone to enjoy.
The main drawbacks are that the system requires separate controllers for social play, a separate controller for some Virtual Console titles, and GameCube controllers for GameCube games. This cute little system can really nickel and dime you! The games, at least, are cheaper than Xbox 360 and PS3 games, but the Wii doesn't have anywhere near the degree of graphical muscle of its rivals -- and there's no HD support, either. Watch out for the games too -- some are just versions designed for other systems without a lot of thought put into the Wii controls. The best Wii games tend to be the ones developed specifically to take advantage of the system's unique controller.
Some people have reported system failures, but the problem doesn't seem to be widespread. Others have reported that their Wii remote straps broke, sending the remote crashing through their TV. It's difficult to know how widespread this problem is, but Nintendo quickly offered to replace straps for free, and you can also get rubber remote covers to provide extra grip.
Nintendo hasn't released a lot of peripherals, yet. To be honest, it's having a hard enough time keeping the Wii in stores and keeping up with demand for the Nunchuk and Wii remote. The Wii Zapper was just released along with a Legend of Zelda-based target shooting game, Link's Crossbow Training. The Zapper is a plastic shell that holds the remote and Nunchuk together to form a kind of gun, letting you use them together to aim and fire. Nintendo reports a special steering wheel is in the pipeline, and possibly other sports-related shells into which to put your remotes are on the way.
Soon after the console was released, third-party manufacturers began making steering shells (put the remote into a steering wheel and hold it in front of you, turning it as you'd turn a real wheel) and sports shells (attachments that make your remote look like a racket, golf club, etc.), but none of these are necessary to play the games. Admittedly, the steering shells do make racing more intuitive for kids or grandma.
Super Mario Galaxy: Mario's latest adventure is more 3-D than ever, as Mario travels through space landing on tiny planets and circumnavigating them while collecting coins and stars and bouncing on the heads of the bad guys. What's old is new again, and the Wii controls add a lot to Mario's always-addictive gameplay.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Half puzzle/adventure and half first-person shooter, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption basically amounts to Nintendo showing the world how to make a decent first-person shooter for its motion-sensing system.
Wario Ware: Smooth Moves: Put the remote on your head and do some deep knee bends; hold it against your nose to make an elephant spray water, and more. Wario games have always been wicked, innovative and fun, but they've never been quite this funny.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: Mario was MIA for the big launch of the Wii, but Link was there, and he spent most of the year waving the remote around to fish, fight and rescue Zelda once again.
The Wii debuted in 2006 and its influence has rocked the industry. Nintendo literally can't keep it in stores, making it impossible to find in certain parts of the world. The biggest problem with the console is that Nintendo has allowed a lot of really bad third-party games to be released. Some are PlayStation 2 games with motion controls awkwardly tacked on, and some are clearly quick cash-ins. I even comes with a copy of Wii Sports, a family-friendly and endlessly replayable compilation of sports mini-games anyone can play. Meanwhile, Nintendo has been producing quality game after quality game for the system. Here's hoping 2008's release schedule makes it a bit safer to browse the Wii section of your local game store. Regardless, due to sales alone, expect the Wii to continue to expand the market.